Sunday, March 24, 2013

Players of Interest in Miami

These 12 days in Key Biscayne are some of the most interesting days on the ATP world tour this year. It is a 96-player field, which is tied with Indian Wells for the most of any non-slam tournament, so you know you are going to get a wide variety of players just like in the slams. However, the big difference from this tournament and slams is no Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer. This leaves a lot of room for some of the players outside the top four to make a mark on the Masters Series event. So let's take a look at some of the players who have done just that in the first week.

Janko Tipsarevic (Srb)- To say that Tipsarevic is having a disappointing 2013 would be a massive understatement. The No. 9 player was riding a five-match losing streak going into Miami. Tipsy finally snapped the streak with a straight-set victory over Dudi Sela on Friday. Tipsarevic backed up that win with a three-set victory over Kevin Anderson (4-6, 7-6(5), 6-0), but not without a little bit of controversy.

After holding at love in the opening service game of the deciding set, Tipsarevic took a medical timeout to have his heel checked, which has been an issue since he was in Melbourne. Fans have been quick to criticize Janko for taking the medical timeout before Anderson's serve, but I would argue that Tipsarevic's decision to call the trainer wasn't a dirty move.

During a changeover is always the best time to get an medical timeout regardless of who is serving. That way it interupts the flow of the match as little as possible. Also, Anderson is one of the best servers on tour. To say that a little time between games caused him to get broken is obsurd.

Anderson got broken in the second game and eventually lost the set to love, because he was still thinking about the second set. The South African had several oppurtunities to break in the second set and was up a minibreak in the tiebreaker. That is hard for any tennis player to let go of. This isn't the first time in tennis that a player lost a close set and then got bageled in the following set. In sports, people talk all the time about the importance of having a short term memory. Clearly Anderson was still thinking about the missed oppurtunities in the second set.

Even if Tipsarevic's medical timeout was the reason that Anderson's serve was broken, it doesn't explain why Kevin lost the set to love. Anderson came recovered from getting broken early in the second set. If Anderson surrenduring his serve in the second game of the decider was just because of the trainer, why wasn't the world No. 29 able to recover.

Anderson played a great match today, but didn't take adavantage of the many oppurtunities he had in the second set. Eventually, that cost him the match. Clearly this was a big win for Tipsarevic. He showed a lot of emotions on the court after the match. Hopefully the heel issues are behind him, so he can stay in the top 10. He will play Gilles Simon in the round of 16 on Tuesday.

Kevin Anderson (RSA)- Coming into the ATP Masters Series event in Miami, Anderson is one of the hottest players on tour. At 26 years of age, he is playing the best tennis of his career and he is just one spot below his career-high ranking achieved at this time last year. Anderson has compiled a record of 13-4, reaching the final in Sydney, round of 16 at the Australian Open, and the quarterfinals in Delray Beach and Indian Wells. After beating Horacio Zeballos in the second round, he was two points away from collecting his second win this season over a top 10 foe before losing in a deciding set. Going into the clay season, things are about to get tough for the 6-foot-8 South African. He has a career record of 15-19 on clay. Anderson is going to have to find away to turn things around on clay if he wants to keep moving his ranking up. He only has to defend 290 points from now until the end of Wimbledon. If he finds a way to win on clay and performs better at SW19 than he did last year, the world No. 29 has a great chance to move into the top 25 or better in the world.

Bernard Tomic (Aus)- Once again, Tomic was booed by fans for a lack of effort on the court. He has had issues in Miami before. Last year, he asked to receive a point penalty for coaching, so his dad would stop talking. I was hoping his character issues were in the past after a good start to the year with a title in Sydney, but it appears that Tomic is still just as immature as ever. I don't understand how a player would ever tank a match when they have an opportunity to play against one of the best players in the world in Andy Murray on a center court. Isn't that what you go through all the training and tough futures and challengers matches all your life for? A lot of people are expecting amazing things from Tomic, but before he can do amazing things, he needs an amazing amount of change to his character.

Tommy Haas (Ger) and Lleyton Hewitt (Aus)- These two have a combined age of nearly 67. It has been over 10 years since either of them were at their peak. However, they are still both going at it. Hewitt defeated Joao Sousa before losing to Gilles Simon in Miami. Meanwhile, Haas defeated Igor Sijsling and got revenge on Alexandr Dolgopolov Jr., who beat him the final in Washington DC. It is incredible to see two of the greats in the sport still competing at such a high level still. I do my best to always watch these two when they are on court, because they aren't going to be out there much longer.

John Isner (USA)- Isner is another player who has had issues this season becuase of injuries, but his injuries have also affected him mentally. After Indian Wells, the 6-foot-9 American's ranking dropped to 23, which is the lowest it has been since late in the 2011 season. After defeating Novak Djokovic and cracking the top 10 in the 2012 Indian Wells semifinals, Isner has had a lot of struggles to meet the expectations that come with being the No. 1 American and being in the top 10. Isner has a record of 37-22 after beating Djokovic with only two titles. Isner was 8-14 in his last 22 matches before coming to Miami. Analysts have identified many potential reasons why the big man has struggled and I believe it is a little bit of all of them. First is the injuries.When you are 6-foot-9, you are a little bit more susceptible to injuries and it takes longer to recover. Second is the pressure of being the top ranked American and a top 10 player. That pressure is now gone now that he is outside the top 20 and Sam Querrey passed Isner in the rankings, but dealing with that pressure can be tough. Third is he isn't having fun anymore. Rob Koenig suggested this one yesterday and this goes along with the second reason why he is struggling. Winning isn't as fun when you are expected to win. If he beats a top 10 player now, it is no big deal and not really a surprise. That takes a lot of the fun and excitement out of the game. At this point in the season, Isner simply needs to press the reset button and start anew with new goals. He already has a new coach, now it is time for him to start to turn things around. Hopefully his comeback win over Ivan Dodig will be the spark he needs to get his season going.

Tobias Kamke (Ger)- Kamke knocked out Indian Wells finalist Juan Martin Del Potro in the second round in Miami. It was Kamke's second career top 10 win (other was Tomas Berdych) and put him into the third round against an unseeded Jurgen Melzer. Currently, Kamke leads Melzer 7-6(3), 3-45 This is already a career-best effort for Kamke in Miami, but a win over Melzer would add 72 points to his ranking, as opposed to 27 if he loses. The German's ranking has been oscilating between 64 and 110 in the last 31 months, but a good week in Miami could be the key for him to crack the top 50.

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